Melissa Blue Fine Art
I’m really enjoying getting to hang out at the farmer’s market every Wednesday afternoon. For so many years I was out in the field every day, covering miles, soaking up images I’d one day want to paint. Nowadays I’m grateful for the chair on the sidewalk, a new canvas on my lap ready to go.
I’ve been wanting to paint a series featuring our native butterflies. When I monitored butterflies at Illinois Beach State Park, there were over 40 species to keep track of! Many, like this Eyed Brown, were subtly colored, quietly beautiful. Just think~all these delicate strands of life woven together into ecosystems, flowing one into another. All interconnected. Taken all together, a robust thing. Yet, each strand fragile, vulnerable. How can I represent that vibrancy held so lightly in the wings of a butterfly?
The Butterfly Monitors
My grand opening was this past Saturday. It was attended by my family and a few close friends~what a special day and thank you to all of you who came! When the dust was settled we looked at each other with wild eyes:”Did YOU take pictures???” Nope. None of us did. Ah, well. So today I am sharing a piece that hasn’t appeared here, as near as I can tell. I painted it some years back when I was still wielding a butterfly net for the Chicago Academy of Sciences and The Nature Conservancy. Ah, my glory days! We sure had a wonderful time out there with those big sweeps of sky and plants, helping keep track of butterfly populations. This is a way of monitoring land management practices~if the butterflies are thriving, we must be doing things right.
From time to time I want to include people in my paintings because I think our role in nature is an important one. I believe that if we try to remove people from our natural areas, this give rise to the push-back we sometimes see, with people rising up and trying to reverse our laws that protect our species, air and water. Rather than exclude people from the scene, I feel it is better to get them out there and teach them how to relate to the natural world that is sustaining to both. Those of us who love nature are prone to scowling at interlopers with their noise and litter….let us, instead, be teachers and leaders.
Americans are a restless bunch, and this prevents people from connecting with where they are. We see ads to travel, and become convinced that “somewhere else” is far more glamorous than “here”. How much richer our experience of daily life would be if each of us could learn the natural history of where we are, and get involved with keeping it healthy.
I know I’ve touched on this before. I hope I am not repeating myself too much.
Here is a happy splash of color to celebrate spring. I’ve been wanting to push myself past a merely narrative style with my work, and make it more playful. Also, I have been inspired by the wonderful photographs you all share. I’ve been struck by color combinations that I wanted to try out. For this one, I wanted to let blue green and yellow green play together, as well as pushing in the direction of abstraction.
In the back corner of my garden there lives an old apple tree. There isn’t much left of it and a wet snow this winter took down another big section of it. Still, I love that tree and enjoy the woodpeckers who like to visit it now. One afternoon last summer I came across this huge web~it had been spun right in the circle created by a hanging branch, and the slanting sunlight had picked out its delicate strands. I really liked how it lit up that dark corner!
Last week was pretty eventful… I found a wee gallery right in the middle of Main Street to rent. Wow! So there has been lots of running around~bank, State Revenue office for a tax ID number, business license, etc etc. Hopefully this week will be the fun stuff~moving in and making it mine 🙂 It has been a dream of mine for a very long time. To have a place where I can talk to people one on one and they can get to know me and my work. I expect it will be a place of poetry reading (not mine) and who knows, maybe I can get a paint club going. Wouldn’t that be fun? I’ll keep you updated. Can’t wait to order my signs and put them up.
Rollins Prairie Restoration
I’ve mentioned Rollins Savanna before in this blog. Here is one of my favorite stretches of the trail. You can see the magnificent white oaks in the distance. There is nothing quite like an open-grown oak, with room to spread wide its arching limbs. In the middle ground is the result of breaking drainage tiles. Right away the water came back to the land, bringing with it many birds. Success! And in the foreground is a patch of prairie. Brush cutting and prescribed burns keep this system in good health, while some judicious seeding of native forbs is reweaving the tapestry that provides food and shelter for a great number of creatures.
The farmer who owned this place before it became a preserve obviously took good care of the land. I hope he or his family are pleased with how it is turning out these days. Places like this are wonderful in their own right, but they also give me hope because of the human influence they represent. There are forces in the world that help to restore balance and healing. I believe these forces will prevail over the distortions that create fear, hatred and war.
A couple of summers ago the Blazing Stars blazed brightly at Illinois Beach State Park. They made a spectacular show, and I’m so glad I was there to witness it. My soul is happiest when I am able to drink deeply of the beauty I find in one special place, and it has been amazing to see what nature has offered up for me over the past, er, several years. I’ve seen wonders, such as the time the Dead River blew out it’s sand bar, creating sine waves far out into Lake Michigan. Some years one plant is ascendant, other years it might be rare turtles. What a great journey!
I see my life as a quiet one, hunkered down in one spot, learning to see it deeply, celebrating it in paint. Pursuing my career pushes me out into the wider world, however. This doesn’t come easily…I read the business books and quail at the advice. Mailing list? Newsletter? EEK! What I have found is that I can fold my career right into my life until it is a natural extension of myself. Focus, and do the next thing. The next step always appears, as if by magic. It has also become an interesting journey. Most recently, it has led to my being invited to take this painting to the Racine Art Museum to be part of their rental and sales program. I’m so excited!
This seems like a good morning to look back, while I wait for the snow to melt and for things to green up. And other things to start flying around and biting (sigh) 🙂
Fifty years ago the Lake County Forest Preserve District voted to preserve a green corridor along the Des Plaines River. It would run from the Wisconsin border all the way through the county to the bordering county to the south. I have just read that the last piece has been purchased now, and nearly all of the trail has been completed. An incredible array of habitats have been preserved, rich in biodiversity. It took a great deal of thinking ahead, and nurturing of relationships with landowners along the way.
This painting isn’t that old, but I did paint it some years ago. It still stands as one of my favorites. I have seen wonderful things in my walks along the Des Plaines River Trail, among them these wonderful old Shagbark Hickory trees watching out over the river. I love their gnarly look and their peeling bark. They were one of the first trees I “met” when I became involved with ecological restoration many years ago. When I see one I am swept back to those exciting days when learning leapt out of the classroom and into the field, and I met people who shared my passion.